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Linda Engström

Linda Engström
PhD in Rural Development; Environmental adviser to Sida


With a master degree in Ecology (2000), and a doctoral degree in Rural Development (2018), I currently work with integrating environmental perspectives into Swedish development cooperation. The aim is to increase environmental concern and advance a sustainable environment, including a sustainable use of natural resources, in the projects, programs and organisations supported in Swedish/Sida's bi-and multilateral development assistance. We apply a broad definition of "environment", where socio-economic linkages with environment are central.

Due to my engagement in research, I work to bridge the gap between policy development and research. Furthermore, my interest and competence is largely within (agricultural) development, agricultural politics at global and national levels including politics of land and natural resources management where power relations play an important role.


My research interests broadly lie within the themes of Politics of Environment and Rural transition, where trends of neoliberalisation in (rural) development, understanding the gap between policy versus practice, and relations between the so called 'developing' and 'developed' countries constitute main elements.

In my PhD research (defended in September 2018), I studied large-scale agricultural investment as a development strategy for rural Tanzania, a strategy promoted by Swedish and Tanzanian governments, bilateral donors and development banks alike since the early 2000's. While such investments are proposed to provide efficient use of "unused" land, employment opportunities, solutions to ancient agricultural methods and industralisation, it is being increasingly acknowledged that many projects fail to deliver promised outcomes, or even fail to materialise.

In my research, I studied how and why the implementation of a large-scale sugar cane project in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, was repeatedly delayed and eventually failed to materialise. To understand this process, I analysed dominant, simplified, discourses among project proponents in relation to contradicting academic and local discourses and materialities. I analysed how these simplified discourses promising change, interacted with complex contexts in order to produce delay, and eventually failure to materialise. I discuss how delays were not innocent, nor inevitable, and played a pivotal role in our understanding of how simplified discourses contribute to development failure. I contribute to the knowledge about how and why these investments do not deliver promised outcomes. However, I show how they can have a range of other, mainly negative, impacts, not least on the rural residents targeted by intervention, but also on the host state, development agencies and the investing company.



I explored how and why two investments in Kigoma and Bagamoyo struggle to materialise. Drawing on literature from post-development and post-colonial theory, I position my findings in debates on development discourse and development failure, in the new context of close collaboration with the private sector in development aid. The project has received financial support from Formas and VR/U-forsk between 2012-2016. Our collaboration partner in Tanzania is Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro.


I have a master degree in Zooecology from Uppsala University including development studies, tropical ecology and anthropology. I also have a journalist degree from Uppsala University. I have done two years of research on orangutans and forestry in Kalimantan, Indonesia. I worked for Swedish and international NGOs on global environmental issues such as palm oil production in South East Asia and soy production in Latin America. Also before the onset of the PhD I worked as an advisor to Sida at the Sida Helpdesk for Environment and Climate Change at SLU. Through my thesis work, I expanded my experience to include both natural and social science perspectives.


Within my PhD project, I have supervised five master students (main supervisor for two) studying Agronomy (rural development) and the master program "Rural Development and Natural Resource Development".

Selected publications

Engstrom & Hajdu (2018). Conjuring ‘Win-World’ – Resilient Development Narratives in a Large-Scale Agro-Investment in Tanzania. Journal of Development Studies.

Bluwstein, Friis-Lund, Askew, Stein, Noe, Odgaard, Maganga, Engström (2018). Between dependence and deprivation: the interlocking nature of land alienation in Tanzania. J of Agrarian Change.

Abdallah, J., Engstrom, L., Havnevik, K., Salomonsson, L (2014). A Critical Analysis of Practices and Dynamics of Large Scale Land Acquisitions in Tanzania The global land grab - Beyond the hype. Kaag and Zoomers, ZED.

Englund et al. 2011. Producing Feedstock for Biofuels: Land-Use and Local Environmental impacts - Technical report for the EU Biofuel Baseline project.  

OECD DAC Environet. 2011. Strategic Environmental Assessment and Biofuels Development.

Engström, L., 2009, Liquid Biofuel Production – Opportunities and Challenges in Developing Countries, Swedish EIA Centre SLU, Uppsala, Sweden.

Marshall, A.J., Nardiyono, Engstrom L. Pamungkas, B., Palapa, J., Meijaard, E., Stanley, S.A., 2006, The blowgun is mightier than the chainsaw in determining population density of Bornean orangutans (Pongo Pygmaeus Pygmaeus) in the forests of East Kalimantan , Biological Conservation Volume 129 Issue 4 pp 566-578.

Felton, A.M., Engstrom, L.., Felton, A., Knott, C.D, 2003, Orangutan population density, forest structure and fruit availability in hand logged and unlogged peat swamp forests in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, Biological Conservation 114: 91-101.



Project Leader at the Department of Urban and Rural Development; Division of Environmental Integration
Telephone: +4618672641
Work description: PhD student at the Department for Rural and Urban Development SLU, studying large scale agricultural investments as development strategy, adviser on environmental integration in Swedish Development Cooperation, forestry and palm oil production in Global South.
Postal address:
Inst för stad och land, Box 7012
Visiting address: Ulls väg 27, Uppsala